Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 21 Jul, 2012
We lived in Brighton for about five months in the late 1990s, in fact we got married in Brighton, in the registry office not a bouquet's throw from the wonderful, extrovert, mock-Oriental glory of the Brighton Pavilion. Alas, being poor as registry office mice we…Read More
We lived in Brighton for about five months in the late 1990s, in fact we got married in Brighton, in the registry office not a bouquet's throw from the wonderful, extrovert, mock-Oriental glory of the Brighton Pavilion. Alas, being poor as registry office mice we had never made it inside, and thus I only know the lavish interiors of that amazing building from photos. Still, it's almost certainly worth visiting if you can afford the exorbitant fees being charged (it is now 10 GBP to enter the Pavilion, it was 5 all those years ago - I still remember, but a fiver then was easily as much as a tenner is today) as much for the artistic and historical interest, as for the connections to the Regency romances (from Jane Austin to Georgette Eyer). In fact, the Pavilion would be a good introduction to the whole of Brighton and by proxy, to the Georgian and Regency periods in British history, very much iconic and exerting a powerful influence even now, and yet a very complex one, where the power of the Empire was just beginning to reach its apex and which marked flourishing of science, literature and particularly visual arts (painting and architecture), previously somewhat underdeveloped under the puritan/protestant influences. And yet the same time saw incredible poverty, rural and urban squalor of unprecedented extent, uprooting of the whole populations, and resulting crime and accompanying (harsh) punishments, all of which was only beginning to be alleviated in the Victorian era as a combined effect of actions of philanthropists, social reformers and increasingly influential socialism. Maybe the period owes its attraction precisely to this contrast between the highest sophistication of the mind and manners and the brutishness and squalor of the dark side of the era. Regardless of all this, Brighton is all about the Regency/Georgian periods, having been created as a fashionable resort by none other than Prince Regent himself, and until this day the most charming streets and districts of the city date to that period, with graceful crescents and terraces of creamy-white town-houses and delightful public squares. The later periods embraced Brighton as a resort too - it was too close to London to be forgotten - and thus, over time, it acquired a Victorian promenade, a couple of typical English seaside piers, one of the oldest aquariums in England and later on a modern marina, a nudist beach, a left-leaning 1960s university and a reputation for being a gay capital of Britain. At times counter-cultural, at times sleazy, at times snobbishly metropolitan with soaring property prices, Brighton remains a place that is very much alive and, despite all the posturings of the locals, incomers and visitors, very real, with a surprising variety of things to see and do for all types of visitors. You might not like it, but if you are staying in London or anywhere south of the capital, the trip is cheap and quick ( frequent trains or an hour's drive in good traffic from the southern reaches of the city). And if you never have been to an English seaside resort, this is your chance, and there is more to see there than just a crappy pebbly beach, tacky pier amusements and fish and chips on the promenade. But do go to the beach and the pier, the experience is incomplete without it. Close
Written by Thehonesttruth on 26 Jul, 2010
Yesterday, my boyfriend, his father, my daughter and I decided to visit Brighton. From Eastbourne this was only a short 30 minute drive, there are also bus services regularly from Eastbourne town centre that we have used before, which cost £5.50 return for an adult…Read More
Yesterday, my boyfriend, his father, my daughter and I decided to visit Brighton. From Eastbourne this was only a short 30 minute drive, there are also bus services regularly from Eastbourne town centre that we have used before, which cost £5.50 return for an adult .Now, it was raining when we went yesterday, so perhaps we didn't do so many of the traditional touristy things - however, I have been before in better weather and enjoyed all the traditional stuff - fish and chips on the beach etc , so I will try and include these in my review.The reason most tourist probably visit Brighton is likely to be either the beach, or Brightons incredibly colourful diversity of people . One of the biggest Gay Pride festivals in the UK is the one in Brighton, and even whilst shopping, you'll see the rainbow flag flying everywhere - hotel windows, bar windows, and on a large number of car bumper stickers. We came across other less obvious signs too - a bin with two holes in the top labelled cum and butts - clearly designed of course for chewing gum, and cigarette butts . There was also a rather nice mosaic of a naked man set into the pavement.Brighton is certainly a colourful place - just take a look at the shops in the 'Lanes' area - each shop is painted a different colour, with some buildings decorated with amazingly intricate and detailed graffiti . This is not the work of some pikey vandal - this is full scale artwork, planned and designed and possibly requiring scaffolding . Some of this was serious political graffiti, some of this was simple statements such as 'Unconditional Love' and some of this was brilliant cartoons.We visited a fair few shops yesterday. Lets start with the Brighton Sausage Company - the faintly suggestive sign and bright blue shop front leading us into a shop rich with the smell of cooking meat . It has all the shelves full of pasta and olives, and an array of various cheeses that any traditional deli would have - but it specialises in sausages in a wide variety of flavours - Pork and Stilton, Smoked Pork and Mixed Peppers, Venison and Red Wine . The sausage rolls here are amazing - Costing £1.30 each, they had a traditional version, and a beef and horseradish version - we had some of the beef and horseradish versions and they were amazing . They were served warm, at just the right temperature to eat, and the pastry was golden, buttery, and perfectly flaky . The meat was rich and moistly flavoursome, with a scattering of mustard seeds and spices, some small pieces of onion and a definite horseradish kick .Another shop we visited was Cyberdog - this shop was brilliant, full of flashing strobe lighting, and UV corners that made the clothing glow in the dark . This is amazing club wear for those with a desire to stand out, although the clothing was a little pricey.Then, we found Cybercandy (www.cybercandy.co.uk) . Cybercandy has long been one of my favourite websites - I love American candy, and like to order some every so often . But frequent browsing of the website did not prepare me for the wonders in store - energy drinks based on popular cartoons and films for example, such as Slurm, Booty Sweat, Resident Evil Virus Antidote . They also sell a wide range of sweets from around the world - Japan, Australia, America - it's all here. I ended up buying a variety of things - Bacon flavour Mints, Booty Sweat, Mexican Spiced Mealworms . This is a great shop to go to to get novelty gift candy for stocking fillers, and I certainly hope to pay a visit again .We then came across the China Arts shop - and so far, this is my favourite shop in Brighton - filled with all kinds of Oriental items - parasols, jade carvings of animals, Netsuke, Buddha, Guan Yin statues - everything Chinese . I'm part Chinese myself, and my mum and I both collect Chinese ornaments, and I adored this store - with something for every price range and taste , and run by the friendliest Chinese lady I've ever met . I spent a good 15 minutes just chatting away with her about the various items, and about the relevance of certain colours and numbers .Of course, Brighton has all your standard shops too - New Look, Evens, Burtons - blah blah . I didn't bother going into any of these as they vary so little from town to town .The beach in Brighton is shingle, and does hurt your feet a little if you attempt to paddle. However, it is very clean, and very very long, so there is plenty of space for you to sit and relax . The pier has the traditional amusement arcade full of machines, including my favourite coin pushers, as well as various rides . They also have a decent fish and chip stall, and you can get a huge fish and chip meal for just £6.If you don't fancy fish and chips, there are a whole host of places to eat in Brighton, including many well known chain restaurants, such as Yo Sushi, Bella Italia , and Strada . However, why go all that way just to eat in the same restaurant you have in your own town - there are a large number of pubs serving real good quality food, some smaller independent cafe's, and some really good restaurants - one you may have heard of is Momma Cherri's, which featured on Ramseys Kitchen Nightmares a few years back, and was the only restaurant where I saw him praise the flavours of the food .The Pavilion must be seen - you don;t have to go inside, but just take a stroll around the outside, and marvel at the minarets and towers of this Indian inspired palace . It's amazing to think that this building was commissioned by King George IV (before he was crowned) who had never travelled anywhere more exotic than Germany. It took 30 years and some £500,000 at the time, for it to be completed to his satisfaction, and it really is an amazing building. There are many amazing buildings in Brighton though - take a look at Roedean School , on the outskirts, or the wonderful houses on Royal Parade.I have not fully explored Brighton yet - I feel like I've only gotten a small taste of the town, and that there is so much more still to see . I'm aiming to get down there for a night out some time, and will update the review when that happens.So far though, I haven't found anything to dislike - 4 stars! Close
Written by Cheryl Morgan on 21 Feb, 2001
One of the most obvious cultural inventions of Victorian Britain was the seaside pier, and Brighton has two fine examples. The most famous, and architecturally the most impressive, is the West Pier. This was opened in 1866 as a simple means to take the sea…Read More
One of the most obvious cultural inventions of Victorian Britain was the seaside pier, and Brighton has two fine examples. The most famous, and architecturally the most impressive, is the West Pier. This was opened in 1866 as a simple means to take the sea air without the inconvenience of getting wet. Substantial alterations were made over the next 50 years, including covered walkways for when the sea air is a sight too bracing, and a fine concert hall. Since then the pier has been largely unchanged, making it an excellent example of Victorian engineering. Sadly what it has not been is preserved.
Piers, by their very nature, need constant care and attention to restore the inevitable damage done by wind and surf. If the pier is not making money, it deteriorates. The West Pier is in such a dangerous state that it has been closed to the public since 1975. However, its value as an architectural monument has been recognised in its classification as a Grade I listed building - it is the only pier to be so honoured. A trust has been set up to raise money for restoring the pier to its former glory, and money is being sought from the Heritage and Lottery Fund. For more information about the pier and the restoration project see the West Pier Trust web site.
In contrast the Palace Pier is very much still a going concern. You can promenade along it, and partake of the modern day version of the authentic pier experience. Of course what this means is tacky souvenir shops, arcades of slot machines, fairground rides and shops selling all sorts of processed sugar. It is a far cry from the elegance of Victorian times, but it is also blessedly free of the social pretension.
Also visible along the sea front is an array of arches under the main sea wall. These were originally used by fishermen and traders, but they are now home to a fascinating array of shops, tourist attractions and night clubs. Brighton beach is a busy place. This journal was researched in January so things were a little quiet, but even so I found two delightful little museums, each of which has its own entry.
Written by Nicola Six on 23 Oct, 2003
A certain Englishman wrote, "When you are tired of Londo,n you are tired of life". Today, Londoner's weary of life in the fumey fast lane pack an overnight bag and head for Brighton.
Brighton is only an hour away on the train, but this city by…Read More
A certain Englishman wrote, "When you are tired of Londo,n you are tired of life". Today, Londoner's weary of life in the fumey fast lane pack an overnight bag and head for Brighton.
Brighton is only an hour away on the train, but this city by the sea is no sleepy seaside retreat. With more bars and pubs per capita than anywhere else (outside the capital) in the UK Brighton offers a smorgasbord of good food, heady nightlife and fabulous shopping, all washed down with a good dose of stiff sea breeze.
In Regency times, this is where royalty came to frolic. The excesses of the period are encapsulated in the Brighton Pavilion, Raj-style folly and playhouse of the Prince Regent, packed with treasures from the Empire (now open to the public).
The place has never quite lost its air of decadence. In more recent times it has become synonymous with the 'dirty weekend', somewhere to whisk away to with an illicit lover. Wake up hung-over in a rumpled hotel bed to the sound of seagulls and you know you're in Brighton.
The city boasts two universities, and the large student population ensures a vibrant ambience. The place exudes an air of arty endeavour and bookish learning. Craft shops breed at an alarming rate down among the old Laines, book sell by the bushel and exhibition space abounds. The Alternative world has also made its home in Brighton, if crystals are your thing you will not be disappointed.
Brighton folk pride themselves on the cosmopolitan, broad-minded feel of their city. There is a large population of gay and lesbian residents and the annual Gay Pride celebrations draw crowds from across the country.
For others the Palace Pier is what Brighton is all about. Stretching out into the choppy English Channel the pier represents the world of the British seaside holiday. Grab a seat and play the Dolphin Derby, take your life in your hands and ride the rickety roller coaster, buy your date a fist of candy floss and a stick of sticky rock.
Brighton is all these things and more. Get down there, buy yourself a 'kiss me quick' hat and have a ball.
Given the amount of traffic between London and Brighton, and the fact that the journey took days by horse, it was inevitable that a railway linking the cities would fast become a popular idea. There was just one problem: the South Downs stood square in…Read More
Given the amount of traffic between London and Brighton, and the fact that the journey took days by horse, it was inevitable that a railway linking the cities would fast become a popular idea. There was just one problem: the South Downs stood square in the way, and railway engines do not like hills. The newly formed London & Brighton Railway Company hired the famous engineer, Robert Stephenson, as a consultant. The great man preached caution and recommended that his client accept a proposal by George Bidder that would result in a long route but minimised engineering risks. However, the company bravely decided to go with a proposal from one George Rennie who boldly proposed to lay a straight line between the cities, tunnelling and bridging everything that got in the way. Rennie's plans involved several lengthy tunnels and two large viaducts, which make the London to Brighton line one of the more impressive feats of engineering on Britain's railways.
Of course you cannot see any of that from central Brighton. However, you can visit the magnificent Victorian station. As you can see from the photographs, it has one of those splendid arched roofs of which the Victorians were so fond. It isn't quite on the same scale as the great London terminuses such as Paddington, but for a small city it is very impressive. It has also been beautifully restored and probably looks much better today than it did when covered in soot from steam trains.
Parliament gave permission for the Brighton railway in 1837. It took Rennie and his team (3,500 men and 570 horses) four years and over £2.5 million to finish the line, but finish they did and on September 21st 1841 the first train from London rolled into Brighton station. In those days the railway started from the suburbs of south London, but in 1846 the company amalgamated with the London & Croydon Railway, giving it access to Victoria Station just a few hundred yards from Buckingham Palace itself. The resulting London, Brighton & South Coast Railway, with its distinctive yellow-ochre livery, became one of the most famous railway companies in Victorian Britain. It also completely changed the nature of Brighton. Now the ordinary people of London could visit the seaside for the day for a fare of less than 20p each way. The great tradition of British seaside holidays had been born.
Trains still run regularly between Brighton and London Victoria. The Connex express service does the journey in about an hour. There is now also an option to travel directly into the Capital's financial district on the Thameslink service. One of the major stops on the route is Gatwick Airport, making Brighton an easy destination for visitors from all parts of the world.
One of the more colourful inhabitants of Brighton was the Victorian inventor, Magnus Volk. Volk was an enthusiastic pioneer of new electrical technology. He wired up his own home, and also brought the first ever telephone service to Brighton. He is most famous, however, for…Read More
One of the more colourful inhabitants of Brighton was the Victorian inventor, Magnus Volk. Volk was an enthusiastic pioneer of new electrical technology. He wired up his own home, and also brought the first ever telephone service to Brighton. He is most famous, however, for his railway.
In 1883 Volk built the first electric-powered railway in Britain, this being a time when steam power dominated rail transport. That would have been an amazing achievement, were it not for the fact that, with typical Victorian eccentricity, he chose to build it along the beach. Yes, on the beach. Now leaving aside any questions of the unfortunate affinity of electricity for sea water, there was the thorny little problem of the weather. Every time there was a particularly severe storm, parts of the track would get washed away. However, Volk persevered and believe it or not part of the railway is still there today. I attach photographs to prove it.
Volk's talent for electrification made him a celebrity in Brighton and he won commissions to wire up both the Royal Pavilion and the Dome, the horses having long since been evicted and the building converted into a concert hall. He went on to run an electric launch service along the Thames, and once built an electric car for the Sultan of Turkey.
The other Brighton monument with a connection to Volk is the Clock Tower. This stands smack in the middle of the town centre at the corner of North Street and West Street. It was built to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of Queen Victoria and for the most part is typical Victorian preposterous grandeur. The famous architectural critic, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner, described it as "worthless".
However, if you look at the photograph you will see that the tower is toped by a tall pole, at the base of which is a metal sphere. This was part of the clock. Volk had it connected by telephone line to Greenwich Observatory to make sure it kept correct time. And he designed an hydraulic mechanism that would raise and lower the sphere on the pole once an hour.
Sadly the local people soon found the mechanism too noisy and demanded that the council disable it. Plans are now afoot to have the mechanism restored. Hopefully the new version will be less of a nuisance.
Georgian England experienced a boom in housing unlike anything experienced before or since. It was a time when fabulous mansions were springing up throughout the countryside, and even the middle classes could afford splendid terraced houses in fashionable places like London, Bath and Brighton. These…Read More
Georgian England experienced a boom in housing unlike anything experienced before or since. It was a time when fabulous mansions were springing up throughout the countryside, and even the middle classes could afford splendid terraced houses in fashionable places like London, Bath and Brighton. These days we complain at how the sea fronts in places like Spain and Florida are covered in miles of buildings, but the English started the fashion and Brighton is a prime example of the art.
Today when we think of a "housing estate" we may think of one of Britain's soulless collections of "little boxes all the same", or one of the walled and gated fortresses in which the American middle classes hide from the poor. Worse, we may think of some hideous array of graffiti-covered tower blocks. In the early 19th Century, however, a "housing estate" was a new terrace of fine Georgian town houses.
Prime amongst these in Brighton was Kemp Town, a creation of local lord of the manor and MP, Thomas Read Kemp. Employing architect Charles Busby and builder Amon Wilds he set out to create a completely new residential region on the cliffs to the east of Brighton. The original grand conception has been substantially re-worked, but there is still an impressive array of housing to see.
Not content with this, Busby and Wilds also got involved with Brunswick Town, a development between Brighton and Hove. The most spectacular elements of this area are Brunswick Square and Adelaide Terrace.
These days, of course, such splendid houses are far too expensive for ordinary families and most of them have been converted into hotels, offices and flats.
Having taken a liking to bathing and the riotous social life of 18th Century Brighton, the Prince of Wales decided that he needed a home on the south coast. Young George acquired a farmhouse from a local magnate, Thomas Kemp, and, as soon as his…Read More
Having taken a liking to bathing and the riotous social life of 18th Century Brighton, the Prince of Wales decided that he needed a home on the south coast. Young George acquired a farmhouse from a local magnate, Thomas Kemp, and, as soon as his gambling debts allowed, he set about converting it into something suitably grand.
The architect, Henry Holland, created the neo-classical Marine Palace comprising a central domed rotunda with two wings. Aside from the dome, the building was very much in the classic, restrained style of Georgian architecture. It was a job well done, and it might still be there now had not Prince George decided that he needed some stables.
The architect for the stables, William Porden, was an altogether more ambitious fellow. He set about constructing a huge, domed building inspired by the Corn Market in Paris and by "Hindu style", that is what was known from reports of buildings in India. The whole edifice, now known as The Dome, took five years to build, cost £70,000 and had room for 60 horses. Most importantly, it completely overshadowed the Marine Palace.
This would not do. George was not going to put up with his horses having a more splendid residence than he did. When he became Regent thanks to his father's madness and consequently had access to rather more money, George commissioned the greatest architect of the time, John Nash, to build him the greatest palace of all time.
Nash made use of revolutionary techniques of cast iron frameworks to cover Holland's original building in a riot of domes and minarets, also supposedly in "Hindu style". He also extended the building at each end creating the two main staterooms, the Banqueting Hall and the Music Room. The total cost of the project is rumoured to have been over a £1 million.
By the time the Pavilion was finished George had become King and had rather less time for socialising than before. In addition he found that his palace was so remarkable that it attracted an endless stream of tourists. Disliking being stared at all the time, George hardly used the finished building. His successor, William IV, quite liked the place, but Queen Victoria found it too gaudy and far too public. She preferred the secluded Osborne House on the Isle of Wight and, having stripped the Pavilion of anything valuable, sold it to Brighton council. Thankfully the current Queen has returned many of the original fittings, or allowed reproductions to be made, so that the Pavilion can be seen in all of its splendour.
Brighton shot to fame in Britain in the latter half of the 18th Century. Bathing in the sea had started to become popular earlier, but the publication of a book (in Latin) by Dr. Richard Russell of Lewes brought the idea to the attention of…Read More
Brighton shot to fame in Britain in the latter half of the 18th Century. Bathing in the sea had started to become popular earlier, but the publication of a book (in Latin) by Dr. Richard Russell of Lewes brought the idea to the attention of London Society. Russell proposed both bathing in and drinking seawater as a cure for vast numbers of ills, primarily diseases of the glands. He moved to Brighton, buying a house on the site of what is now the Royal Albion Hotel, and soon had a string of prestigious clients.
Russell died in 1759, but his house was then rented by the Duke of Cumberland, George III's younger brother, who had taken a fancy to Brighton. Dr. Samuel Johnson came to bathe in 1776, and in 1783 when the Prince of Wales (later George IV) expressed his delight in the practice the future of the resort was assured.
There were two ways in which one could take the waters. Firstly there were bathhouses down near the shore that pumped water out of the sea allowing a bath to be taken in relative comfort. For the more adventurous there were bathing machines: small covered wagons that could be pulled out into the sea. Bathers could change into suitably modest bathing clothes in the wagon and then walk down some steps into the water.
Of course it was necessary to have a servant to help one bathe, and a profession of "Dippers" grew up in the area. The most famous of these were Martha Gunn and John "Smoaker" Miles. Both of them were favoured by the Prince of Wales. Miles even had his portrait painted, and it can still be seen hanging in the Royal Pavilion.
Written by marseilles on 24 Mar, 2007
Our cousins picked us up from my uncle's house for the drive down to Brighton. We arrived in Brighton mid-afternoon, and walked along the coast while the cousins went shopping. The scene in Brighton reminded us of Boracay Island back home, with the laid-back cafés,…Read More
Our cousins picked us up from my uncle's house for the drive down to Brighton. We arrived in Brighton mid-afternoon, and walked along the coast while the cousins went shopping. The scene in Brighton reminded us of Boracay Island back home, with the laid-back cafés, street musicians, and alfresco dining. The beach, however, was completely different from the kind of beach we were used to back home. The wind that blew onshore made it quite chilly (unlike the sun-warmed beaches we knew), and instead of sand, the beach was covered with white, brown, and gray pebbles--the kind one would use to landscape an indoor garden in the Philippines! We met our cousins again at the tourist area, then drove to our hotel, about 30 minutes away, at a little town called Worthing, also along the coast. We checked in, rested a little, and then all piled in my cousin-in-law's Vanagon for dinner back at Brighton. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a comfortable sleep.The next morning, we all ate breakfast at the hotel and then walked around Worthing a bit before going our separate ways. My cousins dropped us off back at Brighton, where we were planning to stay an additional night.